• Policy-makers immune to high vehicular pollution

  • Trees fight losing war in concrete jungle

  • Policy-makers immune to high vehicular pollution

    THE HINDU [3 JUNE, 2002]
    Chetan Chauhan

    New Delhi, June 2: ENVIRONMENTALISTS seem more conscious and concerned about vehicular pollution in the Capital than policy makers. Though vehicular pollution con-tributes 70 per cent of the ambient air pollution, government mechanism to check emission appears to be defunct.

    The over 100 pollution control officers do not check vehicular pollution. In fact pollution checking ma-chines are gathering dust. "The pollution officers are required to randomly conduct emission checks on vehicles. But the checks have not been conducted for the past two years," an official said.

    The seriousness on pollution checking can be gauged from the fact that only 20 per cent of the total 30 lakh vehicles in Delhi run with valid pollution under control certificates. Only 23 lakh pollution under control certificates were issued last year though around 1.20 crore should have been issued.

    Transport Minister Ajay Maken agrees pollution checking mechanism needs to be strengthened and said that all officers will be back on pollution checking duty The government wants computerised pollution checking centres, which can send notice to the vehicle owners failing to conduct pollution check at regular intervals.

    I agree that two-wheelers are major contributors to vehicular pollution but it Q may not be possible to ban two-wheelers which are more than 15-year-old," he said. Around 60 per cent of the total vehicles in Delhi are two-wheelers.

    Sunita Narain of Centre for Science and Environment says that banning 15-year-old two-wheelers will not suffice. "We will have to work on the use of two-stroke petrol engines. The catalytic converters installed in two-stroke engines have a life of two years. But after two years no one cares to replace the converter. The government should evolve a system to ensure that the converters are replaced."

    Environmentalists say pollution can be reduced by enforcing emission norms for trucks, tempos, two-wheelers and pre-1996 cars which comprise 50 per cent of the total car population. (Concluded)


    Trees fight losing war in concrete jungle

    By Sudeshna Chatterjee

    New Delhi: Concrete and trees don’t get along well. Especially since trees were felled to make way for the concrete jungle that the city has become today. Concrete paving chokes tree roots by not allowing water and air to seep in. The result: Weak trunks that snap in a squall.

    The city needs trees. Not just for visual relief but as pollution sinks". Studies show that 100 trees can absorb 307 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and give out 205 tonnes of oxygen. Multi-layered forests can regulate gases in the at mosphere and effectively re move toxic substances like sulphur dioxide.

    But urban trees have notoriously short lifespans. The spate of uprootings in the squalls last fortnight have not only borne testimony to that but also selved as a remindt r that unless changes are made tast to accommo-date trees in the urban landscape, we may not be left with many

    A certain amount of dam-age during squalls is not un-expected," says Ajay Mahajan of the non-governmental organisation Kalpavriksh. "Not many trees can with-stand winds with a velocity of 130 kmph. Branches will break and top-heavy trees h particular will buckle under forceful gales. But uprooting is another thing. That points to a deeper malaise."

    Urban trees have short litespans. Former Delhi University botany professor Mohan Ram says that the urban-scape is in itself not the trees’ natural habitat. "Various factors impede or pro-mote a tree’s growth. The area where it is planted is also of great importance," he says. The degree of soil compaction traffic and population density, exposure to pollution vehieular or industrial also impinge on the health of trees. The neem trees which largely bore the brunt of the squalls, were found to be particularly weak. Director horticulture of the Delhi municipal corporation (MCD) D P Singh says apart from "over-construction which affects tree r oots by blocking percolation of rain water and air," there is something fundamentally wrong with the way afforestation has been under taken in the city

    Several species which were imported into the city are not native to the region. Delhi is unique as it has all the four soil types found in India. Each soil type is suited to certain species of trees and there cannot be any uniform plantation policy for the city as a whole. Vegetation in Lutyens’ Delhi cannot be the prototype for afforestation in the rest of the city,"

    Singh says. Apart from-this, the entire plantation policy has been target driven. Says an MCD official: "Every year we set targets to affrestation separately for trees, saplings and shrubs. But the survival rate is abysmal. about 30 per cent. So instead of adding to the overall mlmbel of trees, we only end up replacing dead saplings.’ There are about 8 lakh trees under the MCD’s jurisdiction alone. 13ut as Singh admitted at a meeting of the MCI) standing committee recently 110 survey has ever neem undertaken to gauge their health.

    Singh adds: "It’s not as if we are not aware of the dangers of concretisation. Every time there is a proposal to relay a road or repave a stretch of pavements, we put forward our suggestions. But things go wrong at the execution stage, mostly at the lower level.’’